LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 16-year-old Tyree Smith was supposed to arrive at Eastern High School on his bus early Wednesday morning.
That never happened, and now a mother is left asking: Why her son?
Dozens gathered in the Russell neighborhood for a vigil Wednesday evening, to mourn Tyree's death. He was shot and killed while waiting at his morning bus stop among a group of students.
Now, the Louisville community is trying to support the family suffering, through prayer, song and a call to action.
“I’m not a parent who lets their kids go out covering guns, I teach my kids the right thing," said Tyree's mother, who didn't reveal her name.
She said she did everything she could to avoid this, and that her son did too -- someone family described as a hard worker, who was committed to his job.
"For this to come to my front door, for something that had nothing to do with my child. He's a loving kid, he's just innocent waiting to go to school and get an education. This is senseless," Tyree's mother said.
Yet, in a matter of three minutes Wednesday morning, she watched her high school son walk out the door to his school bus stop -- and somehow, in just moments, call her to let her know he'd been wounded by gunshots.
"In three minutes for him to come in and say, 'Mama, I feel like I’m dead.' I'm at a loss for words," she said.
Nearly 12 hours later - right where the drive-by shooting happened at the intersection of Chestnut and W.J. Hodge Street - dozens of residents, activists and pastors pleaded for change.
"Why does a kid have to die for y'all to understand this violence has to stop. Put something in this neighborhood," one local shouted.
They all say this cannot happen.
"I will say this problem didn’t start this morning, it started years ago," local activist Stachelle Bussey said. "This is an absolute correlation to poverty, people having nothing to live for so they'll take a life because they do not care about theirs."
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Reverend Charles Elliott Jr. putting things in perspective.
"It’s their child today, but tomorrow it could be my grandchild," Elliott said.
They say they believe being proactive is the only option.
“My absolute commitment is to work with every single leader, to work with city officials," Bussey said.
Also at the vigil stood students who were at the bus stop Wednesday morning, who watched the shooting happen before their eyes. Counselors there telling them they're not alone, and they can seek out people who will help and listen.
But where does a community go from here?
"What am I supposed to do when I’m guiding my son down the right path, and he gets killed by senseless violence?" Tyree's mother said.
Many believe it starts and ends with demands made to those in power: Louisville's mayor, Metro Council, JCPS and LMPD.
"I challenge each and every one of you to get involved," said another speaker.
And during the vigil, many were leaning their heartache and grief on a higher power.
“We are going to get through this," Tyree's mother said.
LMPD says it's upping its presence at bus stops in the next several days as students get to and from school, but it's unclear how many and where.
A JCPS spokesperson told WHAS11 that the school district will have additional security at Eastern High School on Thursday, and "other measures" are in place for transportation.
We're told they'll be picking up all students from the same areas as normal, but it's unclear whether the same bus stop on Chestnut and W.J. Hodge Street will run as it usually does.
Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.
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